Monday, January 15, 2018

Keep the Dream Alive

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr day. A time to remember all the lessons and teachings he left behind.

"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word." - Martin Luther King, Jr

Whenever I hear words from Dr. King's moving, historical speeches, "I have a Dream,"  I am deeply moved. Now more than ever, we need to remember his words and teachings. 

Yesterday I was playing my guitar on a dementia unit at an assisted living center. In honor of MLK day, I played a series of Patriotic songs.  When I finished playing our National Anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner," I looked up and was greatly moved to see an elderly woman standing out of her wheelchair with tears streaming down her cheeks. As I had been reading the music, I did not see her until I was finished playing. When I looked up and saw her tear-streaked face, she smiled a sad smile and saluted me and got back in her chair and left the room.  A few moments later, I heard a door slam down the hall. 

It made me stop and take note of all that is going on in the U.S. now. So much blatant disrespect, violence, chaos and turmoil.  I remember a day as a child having to sing the National Anthem in school while facing the flag and with our right hand over our heart. I did not fully understand why we did this but I am saddened it is gone from our schools now. There is no sense of allegiance to our country right now. At least, not with those I come in contact with. 

May we find out way back to the guiding principles taught by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

 "I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. 
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” - MLK "I have a Dream"

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Silence Made Visible

Happy New Year, everyone! I wish you all much happiness, prosperity, good health and success. 

Recently, I have been asked many times if I listen to music. For some of my old friends, it is a shock to them when I tell them these days I prefer to be in silence. This is because when I was younger, I was a voracious listener to music. Back in the days of vinyl LPs, I would often walk into a record store and buy 5 new albums and go home and listen to all of them. I would buy albums I knew nothing about and listen with such a hunger and curiosity. I loved discovering new artists, sounds, instrumental combinations, lyrical messages. I was also a radio DJ for 20 years at I loved creating musical tapestries that would engage listeners in hopes of grabbing their attention away from whatever they were doing. I loved getting phone calls from drivers who pulled over to the side of the road to ask me, "What was that song you just played?" 

So now silence is my great friend. Many years ago for a humorous gift to a friend, I gave her a recording of an "Interview with Silence." In this interview I asked things like,:

 "What is your favorite sound?"
"How did the expression, 'Silence is Golden come to be?"
"What has been your greatest challenge being Silence?"
"What's the wildest thing you've ever done since you've been Silence?"

After each question followed a silent pause that really felt as if Silence was answering!  I had forgotten about this interview until I thought about my sister asking me over Christmas holiday, "So, you don't listen to music?"  I tried to explain to her how I love to go home and be in the quiet peace of silence. This being the New Year, I thought it would be a fitting topic to share with all of you. 
The picture above was from the view outside of the window of my train ride of the Hudson river. It's a picture of "Silence made visible. "

How is silence made visible in your lives? I'd love to hear from you. 

Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!  Below are some favorite quotes on silence.

"Silence is the great teacher, and to learn its lessons you must pay attention to it. There is no substitute for the creative inspiration, knowledge, and stability that come from knowing how to contact your core of inner silence."- Deepek Chopra

"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature -- trees, flowers, grass -- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls." - Mother Teresa

"Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment; that background which the painter may not daub, be he master or bungler, and which, however awkward a figure we may have made in the foreground, remains ever our inviolable asylum, where no indignity can assail, no personality can disturb us."- Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Tis the season to BE...

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you will enjoy the Peace as well as the Joy and everything in between. I was saying the other day to a group of elders that Christmas music expresses every feeling. We have the silly joy of "Rudolph" and "Frosty", the solemn reverence of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", the wistfulness of  "White Christmas," the sadness of, "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and the happiness of, "Joy to the World."  Oh and there is the peace of, "Silent Night." I find myself more than anything seeking peace in this hectic time of year. What is it you are seeking? I hope you find it.

I've enjoyed bringing holiday cheer to nursing homes, hospital patients and assisted living centers this season. Today we did something fun with the songs.  I was leading a drum circle and something I like to do is play, "Name that Tune" using only rhythms. Today I did it with Christmas songs. It was fun to drum out carols. Imagine a drum line drumming, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing,' or "Deck the Halls."  The biggest puzzler for them was, "Feliz Navidad" by Jose Feliciano.  It was fun combing a game, drums and the holiday spirit.  I never drummed and sang Christmas songs before and they took on a new twist. If anyone had been walking by and heard our drumming version of, "O Come all Ye Faithful, " I am sure they would not have recognized the song! It made us all laugh.

So happy Christmas and I wish you all the best life has to offer in the coming new year. Let's make it a good one! Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Thanksgiving Song

Hello out there! I am a little late in wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving holiday. I got so busy that it has taken some time.  I myself had a very nice holiday.  I spent the morning working at a nursing home and I led a sing along before the big meal at noon. Later, I spent the afternoon and evening caring for two dogs of a friend out in the countryside. It was a very quiet evening and I much enjoyed watching the evening stars shining in the sky. Since I live in the city, I can rarely see many stars. 
I did get inspired this year to come up with a "Sound of Music" themed Thanksgiving songs. I will post the favorite of the batch below. Enjoy!

My Thanksgiving Foods (to tune of “My Favorite Things”) 
Turkey and dressing
And yams and potatoes
Gravy and biscuits and fresh stewed tomatoes
Crimson red cranberries sure beat the blues
These are a few of my Thanksgiving foods
Creamed spinach soufflé and bacon with green beans
Broccoli, steamed carrots and let’s have more protein
Virginia ham for the rest of the brood
These are a few of my Thanksgiving foods
Corn in cheese sauces with paprika spices
Casseroles brimming with wild brown rices
Silvery champagne could bring some new moods
These are a few of my Thanksgiving foods
When the pie burns
When the cake flops
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my Thanksgiving foods
And then I don't feel so bad

Saturday, November 11, 2017

An interruption or an invitation to dance?

Yesterday I was singing at a nursing home with a group with Alzheimer's. At one point, a woman got up and wandered into the administrator's office. Instead of this being treated like an interruption, the staff member got up and began to dance with her. They held hands and laughed and danced to my songs while the rest cheered for the dancing woman. She was so delighted with herself. I was really impressed with how this "interruption" turned into a joyful moment for all of us.

So the next time you get "interrupted" - might you dance? As I type my cat is staring for her snack. Yes, a dance with my cat is in store :)

The photo here was taken at the Paris Apothecary in a class I took today on starting a nature journal. It was a beautiful place! The class was held in the church next door to the apothecary. 

It was a brisk day outside sketching and painting with watercolors. Here are our sketches:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Pocket of Peace

Once a month I play my guitar in the lobby at the gym where I go.  The idea is that going to the gym is "me" time. A place to decompress and unwind. I play in a seated area where members sit and read or wait for an appointment.  I am in the background but I also get to meet many people who come and talk to me and tell me how much they appreciate the music.

The other night, during my usual playing time I was suddenly surprised by very loud, rowdy music blasting from the other room. At first I could not figure out where the sound was coming from and I asked the woman on the couch, "Do you hear that music??" She smiled and said, "Yes it is from a beautiful woman playing the guitar." Then as the loud music continued, she realized what I was talking about.  It was from a new cycling class going on and I had another 45 minutes left to play in the lobby. What to do?!!

As someone with a severe hearing loss, loud music can be very debilitating to me. I wear a cochlear implant (bionic ear) and I am not someone who can just "tune out" or ignore any noise. All sounds in a room appear of equal importance to my brain.  Unlike many who can walk right by a leaf blower or floor buffer or vacuum cleaner and not flinch. Recently, someone said to me, "A noisy environment to you is a threatening environment. " Wow- did that hit home!  I was so glad for this insight because it made me see how much I become tense and even give myself a bad headache.

So here I was in what the old me would have considered a "threatening environment" -- the loud bass booming from the next room, the electric guitars blaring, the fast beating drums threatening to speed up my heart rate.  I stopped playing and went into the women's locker room to think of what to do. Should I tell them I can't continue? Then it came to me. No. I will not let the outside world dictate how I feel. I will remain calm and offer a pocket of peace amidst the loud noise of the world. We are living in harsh, frazzled times. I don't want to be a part of that rat race.

I went back to the lobby and took up my guitar and focused on the peace that the music I play makes me feel.  While I was distracted at times by the noise, I remained determined not to let it throw me off.

It was a good lesson for me and speaking of peace- the above photo I took is from the view at a nursing home where I play twice a month.  This view I love and it is views like these I keep amidst the ugliness we sometimes have around me.

Wishing you a peaceful and quiet day!

Monday, October 16, 2017

What can happen when nothing is planned

It's amazing what can happen when plans fall away. Yesterday at the nursing home where I work, one of the residents wanted me to bring my guitar to hear room to sing. It turned out that I had forgotten to bring my guitar to work but I said we could sing without the guitar. She seemed skeptical about this idea but as we found out, I think it allowed more to happen.

When I came to her room for our music session, I suggested we could sing her favorite song, "Amazing Grace." I wasn't sure if she would do it without the guitar. Sometimes I think having a guitar is like a prop that allows people to open up more. Without it, there is no room to hide.

So when she started to sing with such conviction and gusto - I joined her and we had a great time. After we finished singing "Amazing Grace," she told me she had a CD of her favorite songs. It took some time to get the CD player working but once we did,  I loved listening with her.

We sang along to, "You Are My Sunshine," "I'll Fly Away," "Will the Circle Be Unbroken, " and others. Listening to the CD together brought back such fond memories of  when I was in high school and friends and I would spend a whole afternoon listening to albums. This was the thing to do! A friend would call and say, "I just got a new Jimi Hendrix album" and I'd say, "I'll be right over." and we'd listen to that album over and over again.

Do people listen to music together like that anymore? I loved how LPs (stands for "long playing" records) were a series of songs that told a story. LPs like Moody Blues, "Days of Future Passed," Carole King's, "Tapestry, " Stevie Wonder's, "Talking Book." The A side was one part of the story and the B side another. I loved spending time thinking about what the overall message was. Many LPs then had a theme. Now I feel that CDs are more of a collection of separate songs by an artist, rather than a connecting story.

Anyway, this was a great memory for me and I loved that the fact that I forgot my guitar led to an even more interesting and fun music session with Mrs. G__. I learned more about the kind of music she likes for next time when I do bring my guitar.

Today's photo is of a fall image that I love. I love the leaves and pine cones and colors all around me.
How are you doing out there? Thanks for reading!